June 29, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
The people who built a mobile ecosystem around the concept of open are finally drinking some of their own lemonade and opening access to their self-professed most important product – Google+.
However, Google isn’t fully opening the door to G+, it’s just cracking a window. Though developers have been asking for the ability to create apps that can post to Google+ as easily as they can read data, Google has opted for a seemingly half-assed feature known as Google+ History that only links with app and web activity, then gives users the option to share to their circles. It’s not the complete set of tools that developers have pined for, but it actually might be what’s best for G+ for now.
In simple terms, Google+ History is a private log of the actions users take within an app, which are then available to share on Google+ later. That can be listening to a particular song, reading an article, or taking a photo (Google calls these “moments”). The plan is for developers to incorporate History into their apps and let users decide to post those moments to Google+ manually. So instead of allowing users to set-up cross-posting of Spotify playlists, History would make it possible to store a queue of the songs played and then manually share that information as a Google+ post. It’s the opposite of Facebook’s frictionless sharing function that has turned the site into an endless stream of posts like “Chris played ‘Call Me Maybe’ on rdio” and “Brenda read ‘Lindsay Lohan is cray!’ on TMZ” type of posts.
Google is adamant that it does not want to add that “noise” from other apps and networks to bring down Google+, and History appears to be the way of going about doing it. At a press mixer held at I/O earlier this week, I stressed to Vic Gundotra that Google+ desperately needs to give developers the keys necessary for third-party apps. When I suggested some type of authentication program for trusted developers like Flipboard was able to secure, Gundotra said that deal is possible only because it can work with Flipboard and recognize what type of things are spam-like oversharing, and what activities are effective. He went on to say that’s not possible with 10,000 apps, so Google is working on algorithms that will prevent noise. A full publish API isn’t happening until Google can figure it out and do it to scale.
At a fireside chat with the Google+ team yesterday, the quality-sharing message was echoed, and History seemed to be the first step towards achieving a balance of noise prevention and access. Google’s Ken Norton actually explained the core message in a Google+ post earlier this week:
More generally, we think this difference between saving and sharing is really important for communicating online. After all: not every thought that crosses your mind comes out of your mouth Features like Instant Upload give you control over how you save and share your photos. And today — with an early developer preview of Google+ history — we’re starting to bring this save/share capability to other online activities.
History appears to be a transitional tool. but it may also prove to be successful enough to become a permanent solution. It would be fantastic to have Google+ open up full accessing so I could more easily share articles from Pulse, automate the RSS feed for Androinica, or cross-post Instagram photos, but that kind of sharing is chipping away at Facebook and Twitter, so I understand why Google is hesitant to provide that as an option. But Google will eventually need to make it easier for people to share to Google+ in the ways that they prefer, and a real API with API permissions will be necessary for that to happen.
For the foreseeable future, Google+ History is as close as we’ll get to publishable API’s, so cross your fingers and hope developers find interesting ways to take advantage of it. A developer preview is available at http://developers.google.com/+/history/preview. Google plans to deliver History to consumers soon, so it shouldn’t be long before we’re able to form an opinion about how effective controlled sharing is as a strategy.